In 2013, the Tampa Bay Times wrote about Terry Power, a retirement plan consultant whose runaway divorce took five years, four judges, six lawyers and more than $400,000 to resolve.
When the case was finally over, Power had declared bankruptcy, his two kids had been put through an ordeal and his ex-wife walked away with a quarter of the alimony he had offered her to settle when the divorce began.
Today, the five years Power spent in court continues to influence his life. Last week, he filed to run as a Republican for Florida House District 64, an area that includes northeast Pinellas County and Northwest Tampa. Power, 60, said he made the decision recently after spending almost four years attempting to change family law in Florida and accomplishing little. He believes that legal fees should be capped and that alimony should be a formula.
"If one party under Florida law insists on turning the divorce into a nightmare, they can do it right now," he said in an interview at his company’s office in Safety Harbor. "You can be held hostage. And your whole life can be put on hold. That has to change."
Power said he’s managed to repay his debtors and rebuild the retirement planning business, which earned $250,000 the year before the divorce was filed. But his family -- particularly his children -- are still scarred by what unfolded between 2008, when his ex-wife, Murielle Fournier, filed for divorce, and 2013, when a three-day trial took place and a circuit court judge decided -- as far as Power is concerned -- in his favor.
Their daughter, Meghan Mikhail, now 27, said those years were the most difficult. "I was not a factor, because I was turning into an adult, and my brother, he was the entire factor. He was like a possession being passed back and forth."
Mikhail wanted to go to college, but the divorce consumed her parents. So she worked for AT&T and eventually took a job for five years in Nashville. Two years ago, she moved back to Oldsmar and works with her father as the company’s senior benefits administrator. She’s taking classes at St. Petersburg College, is divorced and has a 4-year-old daughter. She refused child support from her ex-husband, splitting all expenses. If anything, she said, her parents taught her a lot about what not to do in a divorce.
"We’re able to co-parent really well and communicate," she said. "Everything is very calm and peaceful, because I saw what it did to my father."
Mikhail’s 19-year-old brother, who was 10 when the divorce was filed, has struggled the most.
Power said his son moved out about a year ago, and he hasn’t spoken with him in eight or nine months.
"It’s not that we hate each other, but I’ve got rules," he said. "I can’t help but wonder how much of the tug-of-war that happened during the divorce, what impact that had on him."
Power acknowledged that family court brought out the worst in him. He said if he could get those five years back, he’d offer Fournier $65,000 a year for 15 years again in a heartbeat. "I tried to do the right thing, but the system was not going to let me out, because I had to feed all the hungry mouths that circle around the family law courts in Florida," he said.
He said he still can’t marry Dee Dee Trott, the woman he’s been dating for almost a decade, because under Florida law, Fournier would be able to go for a portion of Trott’s assets.
Fournier declined through her daughter to talk to the Times for this story. She recently moved back to the Tampa Bay area from Arkansas.
When I wrote about Power four years ago, I said that he didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would open up his car window and give a homeless man in need a dollar.
But recently, Power, a private pilot, joined the Hurricane Irma relief effort, flying two tons of supplies to Fort Myers and Key West. If he is elected to House District 64, he plans to donate his $29,697 salary to local charities. And he no longer calls his ex-wife a "psycho" or a "greedy b----." Now, he said: "I wish her well. I hope she moves on with her life."
Contact Leonora LaPeter Anton at [email protected] Follow @WriterLeonora.